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Issue Alert - 02-09-12

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Oct 01, 2002

Issue Summary:

Caretakers of disabled spouses who were formerly deferred from Work First now are being assessed for Work First participation

Persons Affected:

FIP recipients who are caretakers of disabled spouses


Family Independence Program (FIP)

What's Happening?

FIA is assessing current FIP-recipients who are caretaker-spouses to determine if the caretaker is still eligible for a full deferral from Work First or if they are able to participate in Work First Activities. If FIA does determine that the caretaker can participate in Work First, then the caseworker must assess how many hours of participation is appropriate up to 40 hours week. This policy is contained in PEM230A . Be sure you are looking at the October 2002 policy. The manual says that FIA is supposed to notify the Michigan Works Agency whenever FIA finds that a caretaker has limits on his or participation (hours, days, etc.) It is not entirely clear how the caretaker is told about FIA’s findings. The manual says that if a deferral is denied, the family is to be notified, but it is not clear how this will be done or whether families are told how they can appeal. The Center for Civil Justice is interested to hear how this new policy is applied.WHO IS A CARETAKER SPOUSE? FIA policy allows accommodations only for spouses of people who either  Receive SSI/Social Security due to disability or blindness Are applying for SSI/Social Security based on disability or blindness until the decision is “final” – i.e., that disabled person has stopped trying to appeal, or can’t appeal anymore. See PEM 230A p. 6FIA policy does not require FIA to modify the work rules for spouses of people who have disabilities, but they are not severe enough to meet Social Security’s standards. This would include people with serious disabilities that will not last 12 months and people whose disabilities don’t meet the technical standards of the Social Security laws. These people may, however, be protected by the Americans With Disabilities Act because the ADA protects the spouse of a person with disabilities because of their association with the disabled person. See 28 C.F.R. 35.130(g)HOW WILL FIA DETERMINE HOW MUCH A CARETAKER SPOUSE CAN WORK?Caseworkers are supposed to consider the following factors in assessing the caretaker’s ability to participate in Work First: Does the spouse need assistance getting to and from medical appointments? Does the spouse need assistance with personal hygiene needs? Is the spouse able to prepare his or her own meals? Does the spouse need assistance with other medically related activities? Are the safety needs of the spouse or other family members met when the caretaker is not available?Caseworkers may use the following types of verification as part of the assessment: FIA- 49; Medical Examination Report FIA –54A; Medical Needs form Other medical documentation to verify the need for a caretaker and the extent of the need. Written or verbal contact with a therapist, mental health counselor, social worker, psychologist, physician, etc… Any other reliable source that verifies the need for a caretaker.HOW SOON WILL THIS NEW RULE AFFECT CARETAKER SPOUSES WHO ARE DEFERRED NOW? FIA has until March 31, 2003 to evaluate all the current caretaker spouses who are deferred to decide the level of participation in Work First, if any, is appropriate. Caseworkers are instructed to defer the caretaker spouse if “participation is not a reasonable expectation due to the spouse’s needs.” If FIA does decide that the caretaker can participate in Work First, the caseworker must assess the number of hours appropriate considering the family’s needs and any scheduling problems. FIA is supposed to communicate the level of participation, scheduling difficulties and any other barriers that limits participation in Work First. Families applying for FIP after October 1,2002 will be assessed within 3 months of the determination of the need for assessment. They should be deferred from Work First during the assessment period.

What Should Advocates Do?

 Advise clients who report barriers to work due to the care of a spouse with disabilities to request an assessment.  Monitor the impact of the new work requirements for caretakers of disabled spouses in your area and keep CCJ and MPLP informed about what is happening in your area, both for people covered by the new policy, and people whose disabilities are not covered by the new policy.  Document examples of how policies are being implemented and share them with other advocates and/or state legislators and the media.  Share this information with others, particularly organizations that work with disabilities.  Contact CCJ or the Michigan Poverty Law Program if you have additional questions or examples of problems in your area.

What Should Clients Do?

NEW FIP APPLICANTS:If your spouse’s disabilities limit your ability to participate in work activities, regardless of whether your spouse receives or is applying for SSI/Social Security, request an assessment and gather proof of how the medical problems limit your ability to work. If it is difficult for you to go to the orientation because of your spouse’s needs, you should ask for a “personal orientation” when you apply. All FIP applicants must complete a general orientation. FIA will schedule a personal orientation available for clients who have scheduling or other problems getting to Work First’s general orientation. A personal orientation can be done at FIA or at home at the your request. By asking for the personal orientation when you turn in your FIP application, the caseworker may be able to do the orientation at a time when you are already there. Alternatively, you can request a home orientation so you don’t have to leave the disabled spouse for a second time. BOTH NEW APPLICANTS AND CURRENT RECIPIENTS: Keep a record of everything FIA asks you do, as well as any information you provide to FIA regarding your spouse’s special needs. If you require special accommodations in order to participate in Work First, be sure to communicate these to your caseworker.  If FIA or Work First requires you to work or attend Work First and your participation would put your family at risk, seek legal help immediately. (See “Finding Legal Help”.)  Ask your FIA caseworker to help you verify your spouse’s special needs if you are unable to gather the verification yourself (for example, if you are asked to pay for medical records or reports). FIA caseworkers must help if you ask them. Put the request for help in writing and keep a copy. If your caseworker will not help, seek, legal advice. (See below.) If your spouse is “disabled” under FIA’s definition and you cannot obtain an assessment, or you are told to do more activities than are reasonable in light of your spouse’s condition, you should speak to your caseworker’s supervisor. If that doesn’t resolve the problem, you should request a hearing and seek legal help. (See box below.) If you can participate in at least some of the required activities, you should do so.  If your spouse has disabilities but doesn’t meet FIA’s definition of “disabled”, and if FIA won’t make any accommodations in your schedule so you can meet your spouse’s special needs, then seek legal help. Please also share your experience with the Center for Civil Justice at 1-800-724-7441.

Finding Help

Legal services and legal aid programs provide free legal help to many low income persons who have questions or problems regarding Family Independence Agency programs and Michigan Works Agency programs such as Work First and the NCR (Non-Cash Recipient) program. To locate your local “free” legal services or legal aid office, look in the yellow pages under “attorneys,” or call the toll-free lawyer referral number at (800) 968-0738, or look on the internet at and click on “locate legal aid programs in Michigan”. You may want to bring this Alert with you when you visit your legal aid or legal services office.If you are an advocate or parent who would like more information about the policies and laws described in this alert, call the Center for Civil Justice at (800) 724-7441 or (989) 755-3120. Legal Services advocates may contact the Michigan Poverty Law Program.

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